Power is an agreement | INFJ Forum

Power is an agreement

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by Satya, Dec 29, 2009.

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  1. Satya

    Satya C'est la vie
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    This seems oddly self evident to me, but apparently not to other people.

    A lot of people like to assume that power is an illusion, that it does not exist, and in a manner of speaking it does not since it doesn't exist in the physical world. Power is a social construct that exists purely within the mind.

    If you consider power in the simplest terms, it is an agreement that is either explicit, implicit, or coerced.

    Explicit power is the most common. It is when you vote. It is when you sign on the bottom line. It is when you shake hands. It is external and highly evident.

    Implicit power is the next most common. It is not directly expressed. It is the unspoken norms of the community. It is the social contract that people agree to despite never having signed or voted on themselves. When the Constitution was signed and ratified over 200 hundred years ago, it was an explicit agreement, but the people who follow it today are following it implicitly since they never voted on it. The power of money and fame are also implicit.

    Coerced power is the least common but the most memorable. It is using force or manipulation. It is the dictator who rules with an iron fist. It is the police who make you follow the laws under the threat of a gun. It is the father who spanks his unruly child.

    But the reality of all power is that people have to consent to it. It is an agreement whether it is explicit, implicit, or coerced. If I don't follow laws that people explicitly voted on. I could choose instead to make those people use coercive power and throw me in jail. I also don't have to give them the benefit of the coercive power. I can choose to refuse to eat, not unlike how many civil rights leaders have chosen to stand against such coercive power in the past. I don't have to follow the implicit expectations of people. I can choose to violate them and accept the social rejection that follows as they try to coerce me to conform. I can even form a subculture of nonconformists in protest of that particular coercive power. And if they decide to just jump right to coercive power and enslave me, then I can force their hand into killing me and die as a matyr to my cause.

    So in essence, power is an agreement. Every man who has ever been enslaved to another man has chosen to be, because he has always had the freedom to choose death over that option. He agrees to be enslaved because he values his life more than his freedom.

    Of course, there are cases where coercive power has no recourse. That is specifically the cases of murder and rape/molestation. That is why those are the greatest taboos in any society.

    Even war is an agreement, where both societies are implicitly agreeing that while at war, any death that one side causes the other is not a murder. If one of the sides does not acknowledge that it is at war then any act from the aggressor will be seen as an act of murder or terror.

    The Jews in the Holocaust often chose slavery over death. They would often work themselves to death trying to stay alive. They were often murdered by a side that saw itself as at war with them.

    The point is that people only have power over you to the extent that you allow them. You can always choose to force their hand and make them use coercive power. That is how every civil rights movement has made grounds. A group of people had enough of being oppressed by explicit and implicit power so they stood their ground and refused to acknowledge the power of their oppressors. They said that they would sooner be beaten, imprisoned, or even killed than continue to be oppressed. That forced the other side to use coercive measures such as violence. In time, the society was forced to change because it could not condone such acts.

    Today I could reject the Constitution, the laws of my community, the norms of my community, the value of money, the value of position or fame, etc. and I would most likely end up in prison or dead, but I do not have to agree to give anyone or anything, anymore power than I am willing to. Even the power you give ideas is yours, and yours alone. There is a reason the first four letters of "culture" are "cult".
     
    #1 Satya, Dec 29, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
    testing likes this.
  2. krooler

    krooler Community Member

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    this is a really nice post, thank you. i'll try to add something as soon as i have the time. :)
     
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  3. acd

    acd Well-known member

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    Good way of putting it. I am reminded of a question my Communications professor asked the class..

    He said, "Why do all women talk so much?" People had tried to answer his question, but they were all wrong. If they were thinking it, not one student said, "Women don't all talk too much, and besides, what constitutes as how much?"

    Yeah. So many things are just assumed as being true or the only option, which compels people to comply.
     
  4. sassafras

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    This was a nice discussion post, Satya. I've instinctively understood this to be true, but I've never really shaped those thought in these words.
     
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  5. Gaze

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    Interesting read. Implicit power is the most misunderstood.
     
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  6. sookie

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    I think that there is much wisdom here. There are a few points that I would challenge. War is an agreement. I see where you are going with this. What if you are a country and you are getting hammered by a more powerful country. They are invading. They are bombing you. The only choice is being an occupied country or fighting. I see that if the country chooses to fight. It is an agreement. But the choice was being enslaved by the other country. That is not much of a choice. I think there is a difference between two countries both choosing war or going about their day. And two countries choosing war. One because they want to have power and the other because they dont want to be enslaved by the other country. I think your logic is sound but your argument may be misleading. If I have to choose between being a slave or being killed. That is not much of a choice. My power is not really freely given. It was going to be taken in one form or the other. I just got to choose how it was going to be taken.
     
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  7. sookie

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    I think in society soft power is the up and coming way to go. A friend told me that a long time ago and I think she is right.
     
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  8. Gaze

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    Good point. I was thinking about this as well. But theoretically it is still a choice even if it is not mutually agreed upon, and however unfair a choice it is.
     
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  9. OP
    Satya

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    It is a choice. You can always choose to fight, even when your country is occupied. Just look at Iraq. Look at suicide bombers.

    I only said power is an agreement, not that it is a fair agreement or that the terms of the agreement are necessarily fair. War is generally coercive power. Coercive power does not usually create fair agreements. Once one party decides to use coercive power, then the choices for the other party are quite limited. They are usually to fight, to surrender, or to die.
     
  10. enfp can be shy

    enfp can be shy people vs the bad people?
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    Here's where it all comes to:
    Notice, each of us has a stage of life when is UNABLE to 'agree' or 'disagree', and is UNABLE to "fight for freedom" (which sounds to me as terrible concept as war for peace). Tell these things to a baby; it's just a neuron automaton, receptive to reality. And, I'll repeat it again, that's EACH of us.

    Well, guess what, all these liberal artistic concepts don't suddenly grow up in someone's head. They are taught to you. They are just made up concepts, to cover biology and randomness. Somewhere along the line of growing up some people split to different abilities to cope with freedom.

    If someone like Kim Peek tries to stand for himself, well, he can't really. Which doesn't even mean he is stupid; very often on the contrary. So the whole idea that you must fight for everything with the others is an outdated, primitive idea, that interferes severely with our mental abilities. Example: good scientists are often easily manipulated still; even people like Einstein, who is not so agreeable, in the end did the dirty government work, and just hoped for the best.


    Society only considers absolute extremes, but we all are somewhere in between. And we all deserve to live and be free, without the need to fight for that.
     
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  11. OP
    Satya

    Satya C'est la vie
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    In social work there is a question which often appears on exams...

    "What group has the lowest status in society?"

    The answer is children. Children can't vote. They can't organize lobbies. They can't really protest.

    Children often do not have the mental abilities to fight for the freedoms they do deserve. They often have to rely on others to advocate for them.

    However, they still live within an agreement. As long as children behave, their parents will provide for them. If a child misbehaves is it uncommon for a parent to deny them desert? Does not an angry parent sometimes make the argument, "As long as you live under my roof you abide by my rules"? Does not an furious parent sometimes yell, "I made you and I can umake you"? A child can still choose to misbehave even with those threats and no awareness that power is an agreement.

    Advocates for children pushed for protections so that a parent can't abuse, neglect, or abandon their child. As such, parents have an implicit agreement with society to act as responsible parents.
     
    #11 Satya, Dec 29, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
  12. enfp can be shy

    enfp can be shy people vs the bad people?
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    I see. Guess even an embryo has the "choice" whether to accept some chemicals or not. Every single cell of a human has the "choice" how to react. I wish there was a way for every single lawyer, judge, executioner, world leader; to study very very carefully to the very depth of all that is known for all biological stages of human development, and see if they can still keep their judgemental attitude. (i expect they could, if that's how they were raised)

    The concept of choice this way becomes a mere argument for biological tyranny. They may as well get rid of all these concepts and just let us all fight.

    If the presumption is that there's not enough place on the planet, and only certain people "earn" certain rights, then certainly, some of them will always be ruled out by whatever means necessary.

    However, I think that presumption is very wrong; and inefficient, on multiple levels.
     
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  13. OP
    Satya

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    I've only provided a single definition for power. There are others.

    Sociological definition...

    Power: the control of resources and outcomes

    Psychological definition...

    Power: the ability to influence attitudes

    And there are countless philosophical definitions. For the sake of this thread, I defined it as an agreement, but you are welcome to argue opposing definitions.

    Since we are dealing with "choice" you could also take the stance there is ultimately no free will. If there is no free will, then power is only consequential to the sequence of events.
     
    #13 Satya, Dec 29, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
  14. ruji

    ruji Well-known member

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    Here's my thoughts:

    Power is an idea, not an object, but this does not determine its existence. Some people (most actually) do not process ideas as well as physical objects, and I believe this is a large factor in how they invalidate power (or any other idea) as being real, especially if the affect isn't physical (effect).

    Power is simply the ability to affect.

    I think your argument here is that you don't have power if you cannot affect me, and you cannot affect me if I do not wish (agree) to be affected.

    While this may be true, being affected is much more profound than our denial of being affected, and our ability to verify or determine how something affects us.
     
    #14 ruji, Dec 29, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
  15. the

    the Si master race.
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    Do you really believe that choosing death is a real option?
     
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  16. Shai Gar

    Shai Gar Guest

    It is obvious to me as well.
     
  17. OP
    Satya

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    I'm not saying people can deny being affected. You can kill me if you want.
     
  18. OP
    Satya

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    Yes. Although it is not a very good option.
     
  19. Shai Gar

    Shai Gar Guest

    See, most people think that just two options, or the only given options, are the only possible options.

    "Slavery or Death!" is often given by the oppressors, "Freedom or Death!" is often yelled by the oppressed freedom fighters.

    However, they're not the only two options. Never really are.
     
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